An application for an mining exploration license that caused outrage in an NSW south coast community has been withdrawn after an error was discovered in the paperwork.
The bid to explore whether the area – which includes sensitive and endangered ecosystems, as well as private property – could be suitable to extract sand for construction projects sparked a fierce backlash among local residents.
The area of interest, as shown on a government website, includes part of Swan Lake, part of the community of Sussex Inlet, as well as a strip of sand dune covered in endangered bangalay sand forest, a bioregion that is listed as threatened.
The application by the company Geosciences Australia Pty Ltd – not the federal agency of the same name – was lodged in January, but locals only found out about it this week after an ad was placed in the South Coast Register.
“The community backlash has been quite remarkable,” Independent MP Justin Field said.
While he represents the entire state as a member of the upper house, he lives in the area and used part of his time at a budget estimates hearing on Friday to grill a senior public servant with responsibility for mining on the issue.
However, when NCA NewsWire contacted a management company hired by Geosciences Australia Pty Ltd on Friday evening to ask about the application, it was revealed it had been withdrawn.
“An application has been lodged to withdraw the exploration licence application,” said Adam Walters, senior mining title consultant with Austwide Mining Title Management.
The reason it was withdrawn is because the application was accidentally lodged for a group of minerals that doesn’t include construction sand, he said.
It was a discrepancy eagle-eyed locals had already discovered.
Comparing the South Coast Register ad with an online government notice of the application, community members discussing the issue in a Facebook group noticed the two didn’t add up.
The mining bureaucrat answering questions in parliament on Friday also alluded to that fact.
Georgina Beattie, Deputy Secretary for Mining, Exploration and Geoscience with the Department of Regional NSW, told the hearing the application had been put on hold because of the error.
“We’ve gone back to the applicant to understand a bit more, so for the time being, it’s on hold,” she said.
It’s understood Geosciences Australia Pty Ltd is Western Australia-based and was incorporated shortly before the application was lodged.
The company has been contacted for comment.
While the January application has been withdrawn, it is possible the company could come back with another application for the same area.
“What I would say is, error or not – the company would be foolish to reapply to explore for minerals in this area,” Mr Field said.
“It will get a strong community backlash, and they will have difficulty getting agreements with landholders.”